Putin Amendment May Allow Third Term
By HENRY MEYER
Associated Press Writer
June 24, 2005, 2:50 PM EDT
MOSCOW -- Lawmakers are considering an electoral
amendment next week that could open the way for
President Vladimir Putin to run for a third term,
prompting the opposition to accuse his supporters of
trying to cling to power.
Putin has repeatedly said he will not change the
constitution, which bars presidents from serving more
than two consecutive terms.
A senior member of his United Russia party, however,
submitted a legislative amendment Thursday that would
allow Putin to stand for re-election if he stepped
down before the end of his second term ends in March
2008, and if the next presidential poll held without
his participation is declared invalid -- for example,
because of low turnout.
The lawmaker, Alexander Moskalets, deputy head of the
lower house's constitutional legislation committee,
declined to comment on the initiative, which was part
of a package of electoral legislation to be voted on
in its second reading Wednesday.
But speculation has been rife that Putin would seek to
stay in power beyond 2008. The 52-year-old former
secret service chief, hand-picked to succeed former
President Boris Yeltsin, has been highly popular since
he was first elected in 2000.
Critics in the opposition accused the Kremlin clan of
seeking a backdoor means for keeping Putin in office
because they could not find a popular enough
"They have decided to come up with various scenarios
that would enable the president to stay on beyond
2008, because otherwise they will fear for their
personal interests," said the leader of the
nationalist Rodina (Homeland) party, Dmitry Rogozin,
according to the news Web site Gazeta.ru.
Liberal opposition politician Irina Khakamada, who ran
for president in 2004, suggested Putin's supporters,
including in the powerful secret service faction that
now hold top positions in state companies, were
worried about their future.
"There is a real problem surrounding the succession.
All they are interested in is redistribution of
assets," she said.
But she doubted the amendment would pass, saying Putin
himself had no wish to tarnish his image or "burn his
bridges with the international community" by
circumventing the constitution.
In April, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said
Washington was concerned about democratic backsliding
in Russia, and that the U.S. expected Putin to respect
the constitution and step down at the end of his term.
During his time in power, Putin has placed national
television under effective state control, abolished
the direct election of regional governors to make them
virtual Kremlin appointees, and eliminated the right
of independent lawmakers to run for parliament.
Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.